With options for a safe space to sleep dwindling, Paul Braun said the Gyro Park Bandshell has often been his shelter from a harsh weather night.
That all could be changing for the homeless man, if the idea pitched at city council for a fence to go up around the bandshell to protect it from vandalism goes forward. A plan that he believes will have no effect on preventing graffiti or keeping it clean.
“How long do you figure it’s going to take with that black fence up there, for somebody with a can of spray paint to start painting graffiti on it?” he asked. “How many hours are they going to spend repainting that all the time?”
“I don’t know what the tourists or these transients do up there, but I know when I was up there I was up there to get out of the weather and sleep. What are they going to do next? Put up a fence around the whole park?” he said.
City of Penticton manager of facilities Bregje Kozak told councillors on Tuesday the open stage has become a nuisance for nearby businesses and event organizers. The stage, which is regularly used in the summertime for events, has also become home graffiti, broken glass and drug paraphernalia, according to Kozak. In fact, cleaning up the mess in the bandshell cost the city eight work hours per week.
“We tried some other solutions. Last year, we put up a siren that came on on a motion detection, but that didn’t work very well for the neighbours in the area. We also have a strobe light that blinks a very bright light, but it doesn’t really deter the activity.”
Now, staff is proposing a modu-link fence be put up during non-event hours, which Kozak said wouldn’t cost anything to the city, since the fencing came from the city yards. Kozak suggested posting no trespassing signs on the fence, would further allow them to take action by calling RCMP.
Councillor Campbell Watt took issue with the notion of blocking any public park space, stating he would only be comfortable if there was a significant impact immediately. While Mayor Andrew Jakubeit sympathized with the cause, noting the park space can be an uninviting place.
“Even this Saturday for the market, some of the vendors bring their kids in, and instead of being able to enjoy and play in the park, they had to contend with people doing drugs and whatever activities by the bandshell,” Jakubeit said.
Councillor Tarik Sayeed called gating off the bandshell an act of “unconscious marginalization.”
“What we need to do, as a city and as councillors and the decisions we make, it needs to be a fair representation of all,” he said. “What I see here is that we are trying to dissect and hamper a group of people that we shouldn’t be. We should be welcoming to everyone, and there should be other ways of dealing with this rather than putting a fence in there.”
Councillor Helena Konanz made note of some of the things that the city would be missing if they block that area off during non-event hours.
“One of the nicest things I’ve seen at that park is walking by or driving by and seeing kids having set up a boombox or music and they’re randomly dancing to it,” she said. “It’s such a nice play place. Something besides when it’s being reserved, when it’s not being reserved, it’s a nice place for people to have their moment on the stage.”
With that in mind, Konanz suggested the city only put the fence up at night, allowing the stage’s use during the daytime.
Because Kozak would need to find a way to have staff available to set up and take down the fence each night, council deferred the issue to the next meeting.